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Old 28-10-2005   #1
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fiat stilo great review

Full review
And so it was that my lifestyle needs changed, and with the family on the verge of expanding it was necessary to get rid of my 3 door Renault Clio for something a bit bigger. I wasn?t actually planning to change car quite so soon but it all happened by accident during a visit to Fords of Winsford, a car supermarket in Cheshire. Whilst looking for a Fiat Seicento for my girlfriend we stumbled across a Fiat Stilo with 4999 on the windscreen.

My initial thought was that this seemed too good to be true ? surely they?d made a mistake on the price! It was an ?02? reg in immaculate condition, a little over two years old with 19,000 miles on the clock. The reason for the low price was because this car was imported from Ireland and therefore didn?t have the 3 year Fiat UK warranty. On top of that, used Stilo prices are rock bottom because the car just isn?t popular.

As soon as I took a test drive I knew I wanted this Stilo. I was able to sell my Clio privately for a good price, so the Stilo ended up costing me next to nothing.

My Stilo is the 5 door variant of the 1.2 Dynamic. Now it all gets very confusing. The Dynamic spec was never sold on the 1.2 version in the UK, only in Ireland and some other European countries. In the UK the 1.2 was only sold as the lower-equipped Active model. So I will review the car without taking into account the extras that come with the Dynamic, but I will mention them at the end in case you are looking at buying a 1.6 Dynamic.

To put it simply, the Stilo is a beauty to drive. When I first drove it I refused to believe that it only had a 1.2 engine ? you would swear you were driving a 1.6 or even an older 1.8. That?s modern technology for you. In every way it feels like a big car, and a very sporty one at that. It?s quiet and refined but gives a hugely entertaining and punchy ride and the roadholding on bendy roads is the best I have ever experienced in my 12 years of driving many different makes and models. There is also a feature called electronic traction control which is supposed to correct the wheels if the car starts spinning out of control. I haven?t tested this feature, and don?t wish to, so let?s just assume that it works.

All the 1.2 Stilos come with a 6 speed gearbox which makes driving more fun and is great for extra fuel economy at high speeds (about 45mpg at 70mph in 6th gear). The gearchange is as smooth as velvet, and the whole car feels extremely solid and well built. It absolutely takes off on motorways ? with 4th, 5th and 6th gears giving plenty of acceleration. Purely for research I took the Stilo to 90mph on a local test track (the M6) and there was no more road or engine noise than you?d get at 60mph.

There is real evidence on the inside that the designers have gone for a minimalistic look with a German feel. The dashboard is made from a squeezy rubber foam material with a matt finish ? I have only seen this on BMWs before. Gone are the bubbly curves found in the Fiat Bravo/Brava (the Stilo?s predecessor) ? it?s now straight lines all the way. Altogether, it?s modern and sleek ? and if it wasn?t for the Fiat badge you could genuinely think you were sitting in an Audi or BMW. I have no doubt that the interior build quality is on a par with the very best cars that money can buy.

The front seats are roomy and fantastically comfortable and are adjustable in numerous places. Rear legroom is ample, and the rear seats can slide back and forward so you can customise the size of the boot. There are clever storage compartments all over the place, even on the ceiling! It?s good to see that Fiat are still masters of innovation. And I should mention the air conditioning (which kicks in swiftly and effectively), a good ventilation/heating system and electric windows in the front ? all with high quality, simple-to-use controls.

It?s perhaps worth mentioning at this point that although the 3 door and 5 door Stilos look similar, they are completely different sizes and shapes ? the only common panel they share is the bonnet. The 3 door is supposed to be more of a sporty coupe-style affair but I can?t see what?s un-sporty about the styling of my 5 door model, even if it does have echoes of the angular Citroen ZX. The exterior design is understated, especially compared to the groundbreaking Fiat designs of the past but I think the Stilo has a real panache that only the Italians can pull off. But you don?t care about my opinion of the car?s looks as it?s an entirely subjective matter. You can decide for yourself on that one.

The Stilo?s on-board computer is a whole story in itself ? it knows the day of the week, knows which door is open, knows when a service is due, lets you set a maximum speed, works out your fuel economy and gives so many custom options that it would bore you if I listed them all.

The power steering is very responsive and feels as light as a feather when negotiating roundabouts. The Stilo also features Fiat?s now famous ?girlie button? (aka the City button), first introduced on the Punto, which makes the steering so light you could do it with your little finger. Although it has gimmick written all over it, I promise that the City button does make reverse parking into tight spaces much easier. The downside of the Stilo?s power steering is that the front tyres need changing every 20,000 miles.

Driving around town in lower gears, the car can feel a little cumbersome and less refined. You really get the impression that the Stilo is a motorway car in every way. There is a bit of growl from the exhaust box in 1st and 2nd gear which reminds me of the Alfa Romeo 146 and 147. A coincidence maybe, or Fiat might have shared certain elements with their sister company Alfa Romeo when they designed the Stilo.

Although the brakes are power assisted (and come with ABS as standard), they feel a little spongy compared to most modern cars. But this will not be a problem if you drive sensibly with a good stopping distance in front of you. The Stilo also comes with eight airbags as standard, located all over the car.

My only real complaint is the lack of footrest next to the clutch. There is nowhere to put your foot except on the floor in front of the clutch pedal, which means having to move your whole leg every time you change gear. In stop-start traffic this can lead to awful aches in the left leg. Perhaps this is an oversight on the part of the designers, or perhaps it is further evidence that this car was created with the open road in mind rather than congested British town centres.

Although Fiat has well and truly shaken off its stigma of rusty sills and door handles that come off in your hand, the Quentin Wilsons of this world still have a valid point when they say Fiat lacks the superlative build quality offered by the likes of VW and Toyota. And true to form, the gap down the right side of my Stilo?s bonnet is a fraction of a millimetre greater than the gap down the left hand side.

But the thing is, I just don?t care. Why should this matter? Cars are disposable lumps of metal and rarely last for more than 12 years before being crushed in a scrap yard.

More of a concern, however, is Fiat?s dubious record on reliability and the quality of dealership repairs. Fiat as a manufacturer often ranks bottom in customer satisfaction surveys and is renowned for under-skilled teenagers playing around with the car in the workshop without having the faintest idea how to remedy the ever increasingly complex problems on cars that are now packed with electronic everything. Yes, this is a bit of a worry to me.

But I?m going to be philosophical and look at the enormous saving I?m making against an equivalent Ford Focus or VW Golf. With an extra four grand in my pocket I think I can stomach one or two things going wrong on the car and perhaps forking out a few hundred quid in unexpected re pair bills. You could take this a step further and invest in mechanical breakdown insurance when you buy a used Fiat, and you?d still be quids in.

Finally, a look at some of those extras that come with the Dynamic model. A driver?s armrest which folds down and sits over the handbrake ? superb on long journeys. An integrated slot-in CD player on the dashboard (incidentally, the sound quality of the Stilo?s fitted stereo will blow you away) with secondary controls for volume, etc, on the steering wheel. A leather gearbox surround and leather steering wheel. Illuminated mirrors in the sun visors. An aeroplane-style food table that folds down from the passenger seat, enabling one rear passenger (but not both) to dine in style. Independent reading lights in the back. And a quite fetching set of alloy wheels and body coloured door mirrors and door handles. All of these things you could live without but they?re nice to have.

I am reliably informed that Fiat dealer servicing costs are cheaper for the Stilo (around 130) than for any other car of the same size. But then I?m not a believer in dealer servicing anyway ? I?ll have somewhere that?s cheaper and offers better workmanship, thanks very much.

There are many people who are highly critical of the Stilo, but if you can avoid the inevitable ?lemons? that are out there on the market, I genuinely think it is a superb car which strikes a perfect balance between maturity and fun, and ? perhaps most importantly ? offers the best value for money in its sector. The Stilo is a delight to drive and puts a great deal of pleasure back into motoring.

I noticed that most of the other Stilo reviews make a direct comparison with a VW Golf, but I think this is a false comparison because of the huge price difference.

Recommend yes
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Old 28-10-2005   #2
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Re: fiat stilo great review

Quote Originally Posted by Legsakimbo
Although Fiat has well and truly shaken off its stigma of rusty sills and door handles that come off in your hand, the Quentin Wilsons of this world still have a valid point when they say Fiat lacks the superlative build quality offered by the likes of VW and Toyota. And true to form, the gap down the right side of my Stilo?s bonnet is a fraction of a millimetre greater than the gap down the left hand side.
Did you measure it? And the price of a stilo compared to VW or Toyota is...? By the way VW are having terrible reliability problems

Quote Originally Posted by Legsakimbo
More of a concern, however, is Fiat?s dubious record on reliability and the quality of dealership repairs. Fiat as a manufacturer often ranks bottom in customer satisfaction surveys and is renowned for under-skilled teenagers playing around with the car in the workshop without having the faintest idea how to remedy the ever increasingly complex problems on cars that are now packed with electronic everything. Yes, this is a bit of a worry to me.
Under-skilled teenagers,where you read that...top gear magazine.Theres alot of people here who dedicate their working day & alot of their evenings on this forum helping out with Fiat related problems.Sorry but I take that remark in pretty bad light....oh & by the way we can fix Fiats it's Vauxhall that had the problems a few years back.If it worries you buy a pushbike...then again will halfords be able to service it???

Quote Originally Posted by Legsakimbo
I am reliably informed that Fiat dealer servicing costs are cheaper for the Stilo (around 130) than for any other car of the same size. But then I?m not a believer in dealer servicing anyway ? I?ll have somewhere that?s cheaper and offers better workmanship, thanks very much.
Fine go elsewhere...cheaper is always best isn't it...don't go running to Fiat when the engine light comes on though.

OK I think this post is a wind up.....own up
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Last edited by Stu DemonD; 28-10-2005 at 20:41. Reason: quote tags
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Old 28-10-2005   #3
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Thumbs up Re: fiat stilo great review

Great Review!
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Old 28-10-2005   #4
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Re: fiat stilo great review

I liked your review, and i agree about the 1.2 performing better than it sounds...... but all the 1.6 owners on here will have a fit and then slag you for the next year! They can't comprehend 45mpg at motorway speeds and beyond!
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Old 28-10-2005   #5
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Re: fiat stilo great review

I don't think it's the o/p's review. I think he/she has copied it from a Ciao website for us to read. I have seen it whenever I have typed "stilo review" in google.
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Old 28-10-2005   #6
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Re: fiat stilo great review

Quote Originally Posted by bozzy
I don't think it's the o/p's review. I think he/she has copied it from a Ciao website for us to read. I have seen it whenever I have typed "stilo review" in google.

yes you are correct,,,,i did not write this ,i thought is was a good reveiw,so our fellow stilos lovers can see it,,,,and read it....to ponder on....

all the best......LEGSAKIMBO....

I HAVE A 1.4 3 DOOR AND SIMPLY LOVE IT........ !!!
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Old 28-10-2005   #7
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Re: fiat stilo great review

Quote Originally Posted by T14086
OK I think this post is a wind up.....own up
Even the most ardent fiat critics,tech haters wouldn't write that much....so come on 'legsakimbo' where you get it from...you can tell me(link)

oh the bit about the bonnet being fraction of millimeter out was superb (I laughed....then cried....then laughed)...are there really people out there like that? please tell me there isn't!!
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Last edited by T14086; 28-10-2005 at 23:22.
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Old 28-10-2005   #8
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Re: fiat stilo great review

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Old 28-10-2005   #9
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Re: fiat stilo great review

My god there are people that go around with a micrometer in their pocket!!

As you can probably guess I was going to stand up for techs but well whats the point...& you gotta sign up etc...anyway we like doing handbrake turns in customers cars
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Old 29-10-2005   #10
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Re: fiat stilo great review

Quote Originally Posted by T14086
By the way VW are having terrible reliability problems


Are they? where did you hear that? The only problems I know of are with the V5 & 1.8t engines the rest of the line up are fine.
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Old 29-10-2005   #11
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Re: fiat stilo great review

ECU's & water leaks mainly....sounds kinda familiar There has been a sharp rise in breakdowns in VW's yet apparently the worse for breakdowns are Saabs
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Old 29-10-2005   #12
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Re: fiat stilo great review

It think VW reliability is more myth than fact, to be honest if the qualityis higher than the average car on the road it is not enough so as to justify the premium they charge.

Toyota meanwhile do know how to screw their cars together, literally, having developed lean manufacturing further to identifying the shortcomings of Henry Fords mass production. Lean manufacture is now practiced by the majority of manufacturers, and literally ensures quality is built in, right from the smallest of components. Toyota however, seem still to be best at this.

As for this review, I think this guy has rose tinted specs firmly in place, either that, or he hasn't driven many 'sporty' cars
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Old 30-10-2005   #13
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Re: fiat stilo great review

Good friend of mine bought a Polo 1.4 Twist. Cost at least £4k more than my 1.2 Stilo, is slower, lower top speed, more expensive to insure and tax, less economy, smaller and noisier than the Stilo..... and thats just the start... it squeeks it rattles and crashes over potholes. Granted its actually not so bad from behind the steering wheel, but its gash for passengers.

She's lost total respect in the car, it looks nice, whens she's not busy crashing it into stuff, even minor knocks cost a fortune to put right, because of the VW quality, aye right!

Me i'll stick with my cheap to buy, cheap to run, cheap to own, but nice looking poverty spec 1.2 Stilo. It might not even be worth scrap money in a few years, but what matters really is that its cheap to run.
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Old 30-10-2005   #14
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Re: fiat stilo great review

Quote Originally Posted by James M
It think VW reliability is more myth than fact....
I'm sure you're right.

I owned a couple of VWs over a 10 year period followed by a couple of Rovers over a similar period.

In terms of reliability it was a no contest win by Rover. (now what a surprise for our great motoring press )

In fairness I should add that, from a sporting angle, the VW's were more fun to drive.
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Old 30-10-2005   #15
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Re: fiat stilo great review

The fantastic residuals aren't all that either, my mate's had 3 new golfs in a row, and recently changed his GT TDi 140 for a new GTI.

Now he was bragging that he got 16k back on the TDi, saying how much it was still worth. Until I pointed out it cost him 19k and he'd only actually had it a little after a year!!!

Yeah, it might have a higher % retained value, but a small % of a lot is higher than a big % of nowt!

Was his TDi 140 really worth 10k more than my Stilo?
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